Elizabeth, Seymour and Shakespeare

Posted By claire on December 4, 2009

Edward de Vere, 1575

Edward de Vere, 1575

OK, I promise that this is my last post on the conspiracy theories, rumours and scandals surrounding Good Queen Bess – I will move on from this subject and give Elizabeth I a break – poor woman having all this dredged up again! But, I wanted to explore the whole Earl of Oxford/Shakespeare issue.

As I said a couple of weeks ago, American author Paul Streitz, in his book “Oxford: Son of Queen Elizabeth I”“Oxford: Son of Queen Elizabeth I”, put forward the idea that William Shakespeare was actually the illegitimate son of Elizabeth I and was raised as Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

But who was the father?

Well, this is where it gets interesting. Streitz names Thomas Seymour, who was married to the Dowager Queen Catherine Parr at the time, as Elizabeth’s lover and Shakespeare’s father.

As you know, I do love conspiracy theories but this one just makes me chuckle as I just can’t see any good reason to believe it, although I think it would make a wonderful novel. So, how does Paul Streitz justify this incredible allegation? Well, unfortunately, I haven’t yet managed to get hold of his book but I have read a review of it by “The Independent”, a daily newspaper from the UK and it seems that Streitz argues this theory in the following ways:-

  • He rejects the “Virgin Queen” idea of Elizabeth – Streitz does not believe that Elizabeth was a virgin and is of the opinion that she actually had a few illegitimate children. He says: “The Virgin Queen was a myth created by the Tudor propaganda machine that was copied uncritically by the vast majority of historians in the following centuries.”
  • Streitz believes there is evidence that Elizabeth had a relationship with Seymour – We know from evidence from contemporaries that Thomas Seymour acted inappropriately with the teenage Elizabeth, visiting her bed chamber in a state of undress, tickling her and stroking her etc. but while many historians believe that this did not turn into a full-on sexual relationship, Streitz thinks that it did.
  • Streitz believes that Elizabeth’s disappearance when she should have been with her pregnant stepmother Catherine Parr is a cover for her her own pregnancy and childbirth. Although many believe that Elizabeth was ill at this time, Streitz says that there are no records of doctors seeing her at this time.
  • Streitz believes the rumours of the time were true – He says: “I became suspicious that she had had a child and if you start studying the literature, there were rumours coming directly from Elizabeth that she had had a child.” Although in her letters, Elizabeth condemned the rumours about her “lewd demeanour”, Streitz says “She does not say the rumours are false; rather, she says the rumours are damaging to the king’s majesty’s sisters.”
  • He argues that the following facts all point to Oxford being Elizabeth’s son: the fact that John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford, was forced to marry a lady close to Elizabeth’s advisers, the fact that there are no christening records for Edward de Vere, the fact that when Edward became a ward of the Crown on his father’s death that his wardship was not sold, as was common practice, and that the Queen could choose who he would marry.
  • Streitz also argues that Shakespeare’s sonnets and works such as Hamlet point to Oxford/Shakespeare knowing of his true origins.
Thomas Seymour

Thomas Seymour

Now, Streitz does not profess to be an historian, he is an author of plays and musicals who became interested in the whole Oxford/Shakespeare theory when was researching for a play. He then went on to research Elizabeth I by reading biographies of her, which is not quite the same as browsing primary sources. So, he is not exactly a David Starkey and I must say that I take his theories with a huge pinch of salt. While his arguments are interesting and make for great fiction, I say “poppycock, poppycock” rather loudly.

I know that there were many rumours during Elizabeth’s lifetime about how she only went on her summer progresses to give birth to illegitimate children, who, according to some sources could have included Henry Wriothesley, Elizabeth Leighton, Robert Cecil, Robert Devereaux, Edward Devere, Mary Sidney and Arthur Dudley, but I cannot believe that a Queen who was forever surrounded by her ladies could have secretly given birth. I just don’t think that she could cover up a pregnancy or an illegitimate child when there were so many people waiting to knock her virgin image and threaten her throne.

Streitz’s arguments just do not add up. I actually believe that Elizabeth was a virgin, that it was a life-choice and political choice that she made and I see no reason to doubt her word. I cannot say how far things went with Thomas Seymour but I think that Catherine Parr sent Elizabeth away not to give birth in secret but to keep her from Seymour, to protect her reputation and to save Catherine’s own marriage. When Elizabeth, Kat Ashley and Thomas Parry were detained and questioned in early 1549 over Seymour’s plans to marry Elizabeth, Elizabeth denied a relationship with Seymour and denied that she was planning to marry him. I am sure that if the couple had had a full blown affair resulting in a pregnancy then this story would have come out at this time. Thomas Seymour was executed for treason but no charges were brought against Elizabeth.

Thomas Seymour – What was he doing?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what was going through Thomas Seymour’s mind when he started acting so inappropriately with Elizabeth. He was newly married to Catherine Parr so it couldn’t have been an attempt to get Elizabeth to fall in love with him so that she would marry him. Was it pure lust?

What on earth was he up to and why did Catherine start becoming involved? To hold a teenage girl while your husband slashes her dress to bits or to watch while he tickles and strokes her seems very strange behaviour. What do you think about this situation?


If you want to read Paul Streitz’s book, “Oxford: Son of Queen Elizabeth I”, then you can click here to buy it from Amazon.com. It has very mixed reviews on Amazon, with some people thinking that he may have a point and others feeling that the idea is preposterous and pointing out glaring mistakes that Mr Streitz has made in the book. Do let me know if you have read it and what you thought of it.

Elizabeth and Seymour in Fiction

As I said, the “relationship” between Elizabeth and Seymour and Elizabeth’s sexual awakening make for great fiction and I am presently enjoying Robin Maxwell’s “Virgin: Prelude to the Throne” which is, as it says on the back, “…a riveting portrait of Elizabeth I as a romantic and vulnerable teenager, dangerously awakening to a perilous liaison with the wrong man”. I am really enjoying it.

Another book which Elizabeth Files visitor Jenny told me about is “Unicorn’s Blood” by Patricia Finney. Jenny found her copy of it and said that in her forward Finny “This is a novel, not a history book. I have used history as skeleton and scaffolding, but I have freely jumped off into fantasy whenever I felt like it, turned speculation into fact and rank conjecture into assumpton – although I have tried to keep within the boundaries of what might just be possible, given the evidence”.  This is how Jenny describes the book:-

“It is set in the period when Elizabeth is being co-oerced into signing the warrant for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots – and Davison, seems to have some hold over the Queen by mentioning a “Unicorn Book” which is supposed to be recommendations to the state of Virginity.

This particular copy was supposed to belong to the young and teenaged Princes Elizabeth who, according to the plot, did become pregnant by Sir Thomas Seymour, performed her own abortion with a knitting needle and co-oerced a witch (ex -nun) to patch her up! Prior to that however, thinking that she was about to die, she wrote her last will and testament on the last pages of the book, naming the father and willing the throne (if it ever came her way) to her cousin Mary Queen of Scots!

The “witch” sees the book when Elizabeth faints and steals it hoping that it will come in handy in the future to acquire a dowry for either her grandchild or great grandchild (as it turns out to be) so as to avoid her becoming a whore. It’s a novel, very funny, very sad and very poignant in places – worth a re-read which is what I did this weekend”


27 Responses to “Elizabeth, Seymour and Shakespeare”

  1. Jenny says:

    Yes – Poor “Liz 1” has had a bashing recently but whatever is the truth, she is still considered perhaps England’s greatest monarch. I have to say the more I read about her father Henry VIII, the more I detest him – Have tried to write something on that line and reasons why, but I find myself going over the top on an almost sheer hatred …. so I have to stop. So Claire, now where do we go from here?

  2. rochie says:

    It might be helpful to remember that Seymour’s execution for treason was not anything to do with Elizabeth but instead for attempting a coup against his brother Somerset (Lord Protector and head of Edward VI’s the Privy Council) and for also attempting to abduct the young King. It is sometimes argued by conspiracy fans that his execution was due to his dalliance with the princess – but this is completely inaccurate.

  3. Claire says:

    Hi Rochie,
    Yes, Seymour was executed for treason for plotting a coup against Somerset but I think the fact that Kat Ashley, Thomas Parry and Elizabeth were all interrogated after Seymour’s arrest in January 1549 and questioned about Seymour and Elizabeth shows that Somerset, and his council, thought that Seymour’s plans involved Elizabeth. Even though Sir Robert Tyrwhitt tried to trick Elizabeth into confessing, by telling her that Kat and Parry had confessed to everything, Elizabeth did not fall into the trap and only admitted that there was gossip about Seymour wanting to marry her. Seymour was not executed for his dalliance with the princess but gossip about his intentions did not help his case.

  4. Claire says:

    Hi Jenny,
    I’d love to read your thoughts on Henry! Have you seen the BBC Henry 8.0 comedy sketches – they’re brilliant. I’ve added the latest one to today’s Friday Round Up at The Anne Boleyn Files. Obviously Brian Blessed’s Henry is more of a loveable rogue than the real Henry though.
    Where do we go from here? Well, I’m getting to the end of “The Sisters Who Would be Queen” by Leanda de Lisle so I’d like to look at the Grey sisters but I’d also like to look at various Elizabethan personalities. What do you think?

  5. Jenny says:

    Hi Claire,

    The problem with writing (or even thinking) about Henry VIII tends to set me off almost in a rage – and I have tried on a number of occasions to get rid of the “hate button” but to no avail (well for the mo.)

    I actuallt don’t have a TV as I am hardly ever at home and decided that although I do use my work computer for personal things not to have sound which, in some ways is not a good idea, but in other ways would distract me.

    Brian Bleessed is , from what I remember a brilliant actor, both on a serious and comedy level, and he would do a brilliant loveable Henry I am sure.

    I know the heirs of Mary Tudor(sister) were on Henry’s list as a last resort although his sister Margaret’s weren’t, which, if they had, under the scheme of things, they would have come before Mary’s heirs. That then would have left Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots (and in fact as we know her son did take over the reins of government after Elizabeth died) as she was the grandaughter of Margaretby her first marriage to James IV of Scotland.The other grand-daughter of Margaret from her second marriage to Archibald Douglas was Arbella Stuart daughter of Charles Stuart, younger son of Margaret Lennoxwho was the daughter of Margaret Tudor and Douglas. In fact in Henry V111’s earlier years Marget Lennox was a contender for the throne of England for a while. Few books have been written about Arbella but one “England’s Lost Queen” by Sarah Gristwood is also worth a read (when you have time)!!! Have a good long weekend!

  6. Jeane Westin says:

    Poor Elizabeth. If she’d had all the children she’s been linked to, she’d have had no time to rule. How could she possibly have carried a pregnancy to term with the scrutiny she got after she left Katherine Parr? Her personal body servants were dismissed or sent to the Tower so why didn’t the hand-picked ladies report her pregnancy to the Council. They would have paid well for such news.

    I think the best conspiracy theories are the ones that are most possible. This one doesn’t sound remotely like one to me.

    Jeane Westin, The Virgin’s Daughters:In the court of Elizabeth I

  7. I wanted to comment on your question, Claire, about what might have been going on in Thomas Seymour’s mind while he was diddling with Princess Elizabeth. I actually believe that Seymour was a sociopath. He had the characteristic that so many of these people have — charisma. It seemed like everyone was in love with (in the thrall of) the High Admiral of the Navy, including his wife Catherine Parr, Elizabeth, Kat Ashley, Thomas Parry (another of Elizabeth’s servants), young King Edward and Dr. Huick (whom Thomas bribed to be witness to Catherine’s coerced deathbed signing of her fortune over to Seymour).

    I think Seymour was pathologically ambitious. He would do anything or say anything, no matter how inappropriate or hurtful (including his attempted kidnapping of the young king), to attain his goal of becoming the King of England, or at least the consort to the Queen of England.

  8. Sheena says:

    Does the premise of Seymour’s relationship with Kathrine Parr and Elizabeth remind anyone else of the story of Lolita?

    Humbert Humbert, a man with a liking for nymphets, becomes obsessed with a 12 y/o named, Lolita. In order to becomes close to her, he rents a room in the house run by Lolita’s mother, Charlotte. Charlotte falls in love with Humbert, and threatens to kick him out unless he marries her. Not wanting to be separated from his obsession, he marries Charlotte…

    I realize that Lolita delves deeper into other issues like pedophilia, and what not- but there has always been something about this story that reminded me about Elizabeth and Seymour. I know that it has been said before that Elizabeth inherited her mother’s brooding sexuality and knew how to use her eyes well…could Elizabeth have been a “nymphet” similar to that in the Nabokov novel??

    Perhaps thruth is stranger that fiction. Any thoughts?

  9. rochie says:

    Where do we go from here? Well perhaps it should be towards celebrating the many wonderful achievements of Elizabeth’s reign and turn our thoughts to the positive aspects of those years, and all the colourful characters that it gave rise to. Lots to look forward to.

  10. Fiz says:

    I can see what you mean, Sheena, but I still think that Seymour was an over ambitious man. He’d married Henry’s widow, but Henry’s lissom Protestant daughter was appealing too. Poor Katherine, dying of childbed fever, blamed Seymour and Elizabeth for her great unhappiness. Jenny, I so agree with you about HenryVIII – the more I read about him , the more he enrages me, and I do think he was the worst monarch this country ever had. I still read about him though!

  11. Lexy says:

    I think that Seymour and Katherine Parr had a real love for each other before her wedding with Henry VIII, but Seymour was attracted to Elizabeth for many reason: fisrt she was the king ‘s sister, and his potential heir since she was a Protestant: by marrying her he could pretend to the title of Lord Protector more than his brother. But the greatest point was Elizabeth’s charisma and sex appeal. He wanted her, but I don’t think they had sexual intercourse. Seymour was an ambitious man and he could’nt do something that was not ambigously childish: just imagine one of his annemies accusing him of raping the King’s sister?

  12. Jenny says:

    As I have mentioned before Shaespeare’s marriage lines and other documents about Shakespeare are held at the registry offices in Worcester England – The reason being because at that time Stratford-upon-Avon was in the diocese of Worcester.

    Googling around I came up with an interesting web-site written by a Japanese person who lives in Stratford and makes a living out of teacching, interpreting, etc. She/He also has a website on the man http://www.shakespeare-w.com and in the section about Shakespear’s life she not only shows the familty tree (a copy of which I have had for a few years now given to me by Stratford-on-Avon Tourist board who also gave me more info. about the Worcester connection because I always thought it was strange that the marriage licence was there) but ahe also states the date (27th November 1582) as being the one that Shakespere went to Worcester to obtain the aforesaid licence. The theory that his plays were written by someoneelse is another question completely.

    When it comes to Thomas Seymour, I agree with everyone who says that he was an extremely ambitious man who would stop at nothing to get power. Being the younger brother, he must have been extremely frustrated at being enied the power he sort (similar to Henry VIII perhaps?) And as a younger brother I am sure that he was a spoiled brat when young as Henry was and learned to charm to get his own way and when he didn’t??????.

  13. Jenny says:

    Hi Fiz,

    On Google I typed in Henry VIII and if you scroll down there is a Channel 4 post – Henry VIII – Mind of a Tyrant with 32 questons by David Starkey aboyt the b……d . Interesting!!!!

  14. I’ve just spoken to John about Blackheath based, Shakespearean actor Jonathan BondBond’s new book – the De Vere Code http://www.deverecode.comwhich reveals evidential proof that Edward De Vere/Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare’s sonnets please find attached some press information and if you are interested I will get a review copy sent to you today. Jonathan, who studied maths and philosophy at London and Cambridge Universities was always fairly interestd in the authorship debate but then as he began looking into it discovered that there was indeed a cypher/code hidden in the dedication to the sonnets which prove De Vere’s authorship. Bond explains in detail in theb book how he cracked the code.

    Elizabethan’s used code all the time, as society was extremely restrictive in what people, especially noblemen who were close to the Queen, could say and do and it was commonplace to “hide” the true identity of people and send secret messages in code in tht period. This was especially true regarding the code because the “fair youth” referred to in the sonnets was a man and these are very obviously love poems and it would have been unacceptable for a member of the Court to declare his love for another man, so his identity and the recipients of the sonnets identity was hidden in code which Bond has discovered and reveals in the book.

    Martin Samuels argument in the Mail today is treading a well worn path that doesn’t stand up to the arguments or evidence that the otherside the “Oxfordians” have to prove the true authorship of Shakespeare’s work. There are many famous supporters of the theory that De Vere was the true author of the sonnet, many who have signed a document supporting this theory, http://www.doubtaboutwill.com including Sir Derek Jacobi, Tim Piggott Smith, Fiona Shaw, Michael York and other leading actors and Brunel university has a MA which examines the authorship question.

    Jonathan Bond is available for interview.

    I hope this is of interest.

    Best wishes,


  15. Fiz says:

    Jenny, I am dying to read that book! It isn’t out till next year, sadly. The first one ended in 1510 when Henry and Katherine’s pride and joy, their newly born son died. You’ve got a lot of ground to cover, Professor Starkey!

  16. Jenny says:

    Hi Fiz,

    Hampton Court has a good website about the Tudors including Henry VIII. It’s part of Historic Royal Palaces which is a charity oganisation and exists on dinations and obviously entrances to the places. It does an excellent job I have to admit. And I was extremely lucky a few years back to be invited to dinner there to see the organisation for the celebrations of Young Henry, “the pin-up Prince”. And, at the cocktail, it had actors drssed as Young Henry, Catholine of Aragon and Cardinal Wolsey who were brilliant in their roles. Although the dinner was a free invitation, I think it was the most expensive dinner I have ever attended because I had to fly from Madrid to London and because of timings, spend two nights in a hotel there. However, in my very little free time, I got to see a number of places in London which I hadn’t seen for years including the Tower, so really it was all worth it. And what I love about the real Londoners is that they are so friendly and always have time to give you the “gossip” as to why something is as it is. Taxi drivers and the “bobbies” are usually the best sources of info. although the fishermen for eels along the Thames are also extremely good.

  17. Jenny says:

    Another book I discovered in my “winter cleaning” was yet another novel “The Autobiography of Henry VIII” “edited” by his fool Will. Complete fiction I know but that is when my hatred for him began. Am still looking at so called facts about this amn but ….. On the Hampton Court website BTW is a “morph” of teh change of Henry from a younster to the bloated man he became — Interesting

  18. Kelly says:

    I’m reading a novel at the moment by Alison Weir called “The Lady Elizabeth”. A good read so far but it also talks about the relationship between Elizabeth and Thomas Symour. In this book she gets pregnant by him and descovers it after she is sent away from Catherine Parrs home. Only Kat Ashley and Kat Ashley’s sister and husband know about hte pregnancy but Elizsbeth miscarries at 4 months. I dont know how the story is going to end, since i’ve not finished it but its been interesting so far!

  19. lisaannejane says:

    Hi Claire! I didn’t realize so many people didn’t think Shakespeare wrote the sonnets he is credited with writing, but I have a feeling that there are just as many critics who will say he did, if not more, than those who don’t think so. You really do find some interesting conspiracy theories, but like the DaVinci code, they should go in the fiction section. I am also surprised that so many people think Elizabeth could not have been a virgin. I can honestly say that my one serious relationship came close but never was never consummated due to my mom’s warming to me in college about having “no little bastards”! I am a romantic and yes, I could still get a unicorn’s attention LOL! Since I can support myself, I am picky and I know too many women who are married and feel more lonely in a marriage that is not really a good one. Do I sound like Susan Boyle, but without the talent?

  20. Claire says:

    Hi Lisa,
    Thank you so much for your honesty. I really don’t understand why people can’t accept Elizabeth at her word. My own personal opinion is that Elizabeth loved Dudley and it was him or nobody. She couldn’t have him, after all the scandal of his wife’s death and the history of his family, so she chose to keep her virginity, forget the idea of marriage and concentrate on her country. Good for her.
    I too am a romantic. I actually made a list at uni of what my Mr Right would be like and I found him in the end. It’s good to be picky, I’m glad I was.

  21. Rose says:

    I cannot help but feel that Elizabeth did have a relationship with Seymore ending in serious results, but maybe elizabeth didn’t plan it to be that way. But Shakespear her son? The theory almost comepletley made up.

  22. Ricardo Mena says:

    Well, the same theory is commented by Mr. Charles Beauclerck.

    And he is a historian.

    The problem is: Are there any documents that have survived the pass of time that show that the Queen was not a virgin queen married “to his country”?

    There are: literary. One of them is Shakespeare’s works. That’s why Shakespeare’s identity is still a question of debate: his works are full of symbols and allegoric truths about who he was, what he desire and what was his relationship with power and the monarchy.

    Starts from the poem Venus and Adonis and follow the thread.

  23. Mary says:

    My family is descended from the Butlers, Earls of Ormonde. There is anectodal evidence that Elizabeth I had a child with her cousin Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormonde. The great-grandmother of Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormonde. Thomas Butler, 10th Earl’s illegitimate child Peirs Butler of Duiske is thought to be the child of the union with QEI. I will not relate the whole story here, you can find it on the web.

  24. Helen Heightsman Gordon says:

    I agree that Paul Streitz has gone off the deep end with his theory about Edward de Vere being Elizabeth’s son by Seymour. And Charles Beauclerk’s beautiful book goes astray by assuming that Edward de Vere expected to become a king.
    However, I have researched this subject for 20 years and have concluded that “William Shakespeare” was a pen name used by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. There was a rumor, reported by historian Neville Williams, that in 1572-1573 Oxford was Elizabeth’s “favorite” and that they had a love-child being raised as the Third Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley, Jr. (Neville sneers at this rumor as being preposterous, but he does affirm that the rumor existed.)
    But what if it had a grain of truth in it? I researched this rumor thoroughly and have concluded that it was true. That’s why the secret had to be kept, and that’s why Oxford had to use a pseudonym when he published “Venus and Adonis” in 1593.
    The sonnets tell the story, which is the most beautiful love story ever told about Elizabeth. I’ve matched every sonnet to the life events of Edward de Vere, and the Fair Youth of the sonnets was his beloved natural son (NOT a homosexual lover!!!). The Dark Lady was Ann Vavasor, who bore Oxford a son in 1581. The rival poets were seeking the favor of Queen Elizabeth, NOT the patronage of an earl, but many of the love poems were to Elizabeth. I’ve explained all this in my 2008 book, “The Secret Love Story in Shakespeare’s Sonnets” If you will review it, I will send you a copy. If your readers are curious, it is available through Amazon and can be downloaded to Amazon’s kindle for $9.95. The hardback book is also available through online bookstores at $29.95, the paperback at $19.95. Or your readers can go to the website of Anacade Publishing Company LLC, http://www.anacade.biz, and order it directly from me.
    Best regards, Helen Heightsman Gordon, M.A., Ed.D.

  25. Rose says:

    ‘Edward De-vere; William Shake-speare’… sounds like a pen name. I can’t quite believe it myself.

  26. Ginneyb says:

    What a great post! I just finished watching Anonymous which was entertaining. Thanks Claire!

  27. WilesWales says:

    I have to agree, first of all with Lisa and Claire, in that I will never understand why people can’t accept Elizabeth’s word for it that she was a virgin. Incredible! When I clicked on the book and got to amazon.com, there is a footnote that there is now criticism from the Folger Library(libary dedicated completey to Shakespeare [and that so many scholars are digging into the theories that it was Chistopher Marlowe who wrote “Dr. Faust, is one of many who really wrote Shakespeare’s work, but that is far from the point here] but is not the fault of the staff who were very nice to him while doing his research, but is dictated of senior management of official policies (the same thing happened with the Vatican Library in the 1980’s, so this is not the first time.

    Okay, let’s just examine dates. Thomas Seymour was executed in 1549 after the dowager Queen Katherine Parr died. Elizabeth, as about 21 years old at this time. Shakepeare was born on 26 April 1564 (Elizabeth would have been around 31 and Sir Thomas was executed as staed above. I could go on, but this makes no sense to me, and if I am wrong, please advise me! Now, there is primary research here (unlike Weir whose publisher will not allow her to use), so I may have to see what that may be in order to form a more involved and interpretive judgement. Opinions are made without facts, judgements are made with them, etc. I so also wish people would stop thinking about Elizabeth’s children, and I do agree with Jeane Westin in that if Elizabeth had as many children as people lay claim, she wouldn’t have had time to rule, much less be the greatest monarch England has ever had, and that she would shame her innocent mother, Anne, by such actions and behavior. Thank you! WilesWales

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